Before I even get into the introduction to this bit, I just want to say how great it is to be back. Did you miss me? The world may never know.
Anyways, on with the show.
I thought it would be great to bring you all some outsider perspective for the game preview this week, so today, for your reading pleasure, I introduce the San Diego Chargers Writers Roundtable, something that I hope to make a regular occurrence.
Not only do you get to enjoy the musings of your favorite Chat Sports writer (wink wink, nudge nudge), but I've brought in two people who I consider to be top authorities on all things Chargers related:
Ernie Padaon, editor of Bolt Beat, in my mind the best of the independent Chargers blogs, aside from our little setup here that is (boltbeat.com).
Max Greenspan, longtime friend, future agent, University of Michigan student, and aficionado of all things football related. And yes, this does mean that those of you reading along at home are welcome to write to me and take part in these weekly fun-fests (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Chris Eggemeyer, aka former-and-now-returning Chat Chargers writer, aka the author of this article, aka me. I'll be the MC of these little roundtables as well as the Chat Sports rep (unless others would like to join me).
Now then, let the games begin!
Q1: Can Philip Rivers bounce back against the Pack?
Bolt Beat: He has to or we have no shot in this game. The Chargers usually step up their game when the competition is high and I expect Philip to be one of the guys to step it up in a big way this weekend. If you had asked me this question on Tuesday though, I would have said ABSOLUTELY NOT!
Chat Chargers: I can be relatively impatient with a lot of things, but I’m usually willing to forgive a couple of bad performances before passing judgment. That’s why it’s so hard to answer this question. The guy has played phenomenal ball over the last couple of years, and he has shown flashes of that this year, but the bad performances just keep piling up. It’s not all on Rivers’ shoulders though: Getting receivers open has been impossible, keeping him vertical seems just as hard, and ultimately these things lead me to question whether or not Rivers simply has enough talent left around him to succeed. The answer? I don’t think so. He may bounce back later in the season, but not against a team as deadly as the Pack Attack.
Max Greenspan: Nearly halfway through the regular season, it is pretty apparent that Philip Rivers is playing at a level that is nowhere near the elite QB status he has rightfully earned. He isn't playing with the same poise and pocket awareness that Bolt's fans are accustomed to seeing each Sunday, and the loss of Darren Sproles, who appears to have been drastically undervalued in this offense, and the lingering injuries to Antonio Gates have left Rivers with fewer checkdown options than he has ever had. Unfortunately, a visit from the Packers is the exact opposite of what Rivers needs to right the ship midseason. It pains me to say it, but I think Dom Capers will orchestrate a defensive plan that capitalizes on Rivers current inability to handle heavy pressure, while the Packers' corners will be able to handle the Bolt's wideouts single handedly.
Q2: Who needs to step up for San Diego to secure the win this week?
Bolt Beat: There are a lot of people that need to step up, but if I have to select one person, it’s Philip Rivers. He is the playmaker that we need to make things happen. We need him to protect that football with good throws and we need some of that old Philip Rivers magic.
Chat Chargers: I don’t want to beat the Philip Rivers ‘problem’ to death, so I’m going to go in a slightly different direction here. If anyone needs to step up their game to secure the win this Sunday, it has to be Marcus Gilchrist. I always feel a little bad for rookies who get thrust into the spotlight a little early, because that is usually accompanied with additional pressure to succeed, which is certainly the position Gilchrist is in. Gilchrist should continue to start this week in place of the incredibly inconsistent Antoine Cason, and he’s going to need to bring his A game if the Bolts want to have any chance at stopping Aaron Rodgers.
Max Greenspan: With Gates, Tolbert, and Mathews all dealing with injuries, Rivers has few formidable receiving options against one of the more aggressive defenses in the league. This makes Vincent Jackson more important than ever this week. As the Chargers’ most talented healthy offensive player this week, V-Jack needs to make himself available to Rivers as much as possible. He will likely be facing Charles Woodson most of the game, who is still playing like one of the NFL’s premier defenders, but Jackson has plenty of talent to win this battle, especially if the Pack bring extra defenders to pressure Rivers. If Jackson can't consistently get open and make plays, I can't see the Chargers finding anywhere near enough offense to win.
Q3: The Bolts are having trouble on offense, so help them out. What are their three keys to success this weekend?
Bolt Beat: 1. Ball Security – We can’t give the Packers more opportunities to score. We have to keep the turnovers down to ZERO!
2. Get Started Quickly – We need to get out of the starting blocks quick and get some of the pressure off of Philip Rivers. A quick start would be a great boost for Rivers’ confidence.
3. Give Philip Time – The running backs and offensive line will need to get Philip Rivers more time to find his receivers. The receivers should be able to break free in this secondary and make some big plays, so ultimately Rivers just needs the time and room to step into his throws.
Chat Chargers: 1. Marcus McNeill – It has been a long time since I’ve seen McNeill play as badly as he did last weekend. If he repeats that performance, don’t expect anything interesting out of the Chargers offense.
2. Run, Run, Run – Considering that the Chargers played from behind for most of their game, and that a rash of injuries seems to have magically struck the running back corps, it is going to be more important than ever to come out and establish the run early. Bringing back an effective running game means less pressure on Philip Rivers, and we all know how important that is.
3. Tempo – No more penalties, no more turnovers, no more dumb throws, and no more busted plays. If San Diego wants to win this game, they need to dictate the tempo with an offense that moves the ball consistently. They’ll never play as a cohesive unit if things keep falling apart.
Max Greenspan: 1. Line play - It's that simple. McNeill played nothing like the anchor he should be on the line, and the right side crashes faster than the Hindenburg. If they can allow Rivers to stand tall in the pocket, he should be able to play more like the QB we are used to seeing.
2. Establish a running game - Not only are Tolbert and Mathews banged up, but even Monday Night's sparkplug Curtis Brinkley hurt himself late in the game. Someone needs to threaten the Packers enough throughout the game so that they can't just open the floodgates on Rivers.
3.) 2 Minute Drill - I might be asking for much, and who am I to criticize a well-respected offensive mind like Norv's, but if the game comes down to the 2 minute drill, it needs to be executed much better than what we have seen recently from the Chargers.
Q4: The Chargers haven’t exactly been sharp on defense either. What’re the three keys to success this weekend for the other side of the ball?
Bolt Beat: 1. Pressure – We have to get that ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hand and force him to make bad throws. It will be tough with Shaun Phillips possibly out, but then again, we have not been able to generate much pressure in the first place.
2. Force Turnovers – We forced 4 turnovers against the Chiefs and it will take a similar effort like that from the guys. Eric Weddle has been playing at a high level and we need him to get his hands on the football again.
3. Bend but don’t Break – This only works if the offense can put touchdowns on the board. If the Packers drive the ball down the field, we can’t give up a bunch of 7s. Make stops and force the Packers into field goals to give the offense a shot.
Chat Chargers: 1. Front Seven Play – I would split this up into two, but ultimately I think problems are stemming from a lack of cohesive play between everyone up front. The D-line needs to lock down the offensive linemen better, and the linebackers need to bring better pressure. These are football basics, yet San Diego just can’t seem to execute them.
2. 3s Instead of 7s – I’m going to have to tag along with Ernie here and put my vote behind a bend-but-not-break mentality. The Green Bay Packers are going to score points, it’s that simple. Aaron Rodgers is just too damn good. However, if the Chargers can limit the Pack Attack to field goals instead of touchdowns on some (or all) of their drives, we can keep hope alive.
3. Better Secondary Play – So far, Eric Weddle seems to be the only guy in the secondary that can put even a little glimmer of fear into the heart of a quarterback. Quentin Jammer can hold his own, (but his rock-hard hands keep him from being a real threat) but that’s about the last compliment that I can give out to this secondary. The Bolts need better things out of the back 4 if they expect to beat a passing team.
Max Greenspan: 1. Can I repeat myself here? - Line play. 3-4 linemen aren't supposed to be wreaking havoc on the opposing offensive line, but the Chargers' line has no one who is holding the point extremely well. Garay needs to control the middle of the line more than it controls him, and make the broadcasters talk more about his play than his hair.
2. Bring ample pressure on Rodgers - It doesn't need to be in the form of sacks, but at least make him feel rushed during his throws. The Chargers' secondary won't be able to cover the Pack's many talented receivers (few teams can), so giving Rodgers less time to find them is crucial.
3. Catch a break - A cop out answer, but honestly, with the Hall of Fame level Rodgers is orchestrating this offense, that's all that any team hoping to hand the Pack their first loss can wish for.
Q5: When the dust finally settles, how do you see this game turning out?
Bolt Beat: Philip Rivers will come back strong and enjoy being back at home. He will have his best game of the season and will quiet down all the chatter. People will jump back on the bandwagon and the rollercoaster ride continues.
Chargers 34 - Packers 28
Chat Chargers: I’ve been a Chargers fan for a long time, and I always attempt to remain optimistic, but I just don’t see it here. The problem is that there really isn’t a single person on the Chargers who presents a gameplan-altering problem to opposing offenses/defenses. Considering that the Bolts are playing nothing better than alright football in every facet of the game, while the Packers are playing like defending Super Bowl Champions should, I just don’t see this one happening.
Packers 42 – Chargers 24
Max Greenspan: I look at the Chargers, and I can't say I'm optimistic. Year after year the Bolts tease fans with their potential, showing up when you think they won't and then for one reason or another not capitalizing when they need to. This year is no different, except that there are more worrisome issues on top of inconsistency, namely the play of Philip Rivers. Against a Packers team that has more than earned the repeat murmurs, I have difficulty believing that the Bolts could win even if they brought their A-game. They still do have enough talent to give the Pack a game if they can get Rivers clicking with the offense, but in all likelihood the Pack are too complete.
Packers 31- Chargers 21 (but who knows which Chargers team shows up...)
Did you enjoy the article? I hope so. Have something to say about it? Let the comment war begin! Interested in more content? Check back at chatsports.com/san-diego-chargers regularly for more updates OR follow us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/ChatChargers/211530040802) or Twitter (@ChatChargers).
And finally, interested in being a part of the next San Diego Chargers Writer Roundtable? E-mail me at email@example.com with a little bio and your responses to one or more of the questions from this Roundtable.
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